DARJEELING UNREST May leave it to Didi to fix crisis given Telangana fiasco
Newdelhi:darjeeling hills appear headed for a prolonged spell of unrest over the Gorkhaland issue, thanks to the conflicting interests of major stakeholders including the BJP, the Trinamool Congress and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM).
In December 2009, alarmed by the deteriorating health of K Chandrasekhar Rao who was on a fast-unto-death to press for his demand for a separate Telangana state, then Union home minister P Chidambaram issued a statement, saying the process of forming Telangana would be initiated.
The Centre later tried to wriggle out of it by forming the Srikrishna Committee for consultation on the situation in Andhra Pradesh, but it was too late. The chain of events set off by Chidambaram’s statement eventually forced the then ruling Congress to give in ahead of the general elections. The Congress was wiped out in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Lok Sabha and assembly elections that followed.
The BJP is, therefore, wary of initiating any process that could land it in a similar trap over Gorkhaland. The party does have its share of state bifurcation history as the NDA had presided over the formation of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand in 2000. But anti-bifurcation sentiments in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh were not so strong then, as one witnessed over Telangana.
With chief minister Mamata Banerjee turning the Gorkhaland issue into one of Bengali pride and sub-nationalism, the BJP, once a votary of smaller states, can’t risk its ambitions in West Bengal — with 42 Lok Sabha seats — by supporting Gorkhaland. They would rather leave it to the Mamata Banerjee government to take the lead in resolving the crisis.
BJP leaders maintain that they never promised statehood in the 2009 or 2014 manifesto and all that they committed to was to “sympathetically examine and appropriately consider” the long-pending demand of Gorkhas. Party leaders are not inclined to get into what they believe could be a ‘Telangana trap’ by taking any follow-up action in pursuance of the party’s pre-poll promise.
Facing heat from the BJP in West Bengal, Banerjee might be savouring the discomfiture in the BJP camp at this moment but she would soon realise the perils of her brinkmanship in Darjeeling. It was her announcement to make the Bengali language compulsory in schools that gave Bimal Gurung, the GJM chief, an opportunity to regain his dwindling political stock. She might have cornered the BJP for now but West Bengal might have to pay the price for her political misadventure in the long run. DARJEELING: Aniket Chhetri, the driver of a Sikkim-bound truck, was severely injured when suspected Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) supporters set the vehicle on fire on National Highway 10 at Setijora, about 37km from Kalimpong, on Monday afternoon.
The incident, along with a few others reported from the Darjeeling hill region since late Sunday, marked the ongoing agitation in demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.
“Chhetri was taking bricks from Kalimpong to Sikkim. The vehicle was severely damaged and he sustained more than 70% burns,” said Ajit Yadav, superintendent of police, Kalimpong. Chhetri was taken to North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in Siliguri.
Some local people alleged that troublemakers had also hurled petrol bombs at the truck. Four others, travelling in the same truck, sustained injuries as well.
During the day, another truck was set on fire at Kalijora, about 30km from Siliguri. But there was no report of anyone sustaining injuries in this incident.
At Kalimpong, a police vehicle was damaged by GJM supporters and an abandoned police outpost set on fire around midnight on Sunday in the Goiribus area of the district.
In a new political development, Harka Bahadur Chhetri, leader of the Jan Andolan Party (JAP), said he would attend the all-party meeting on the Gorkhaland issue on Tuesday. JAP stayed away from a similar meeting held before fresh agitations started. On Monday, the hills were relatively calm, with GJM supporters staging rallies at Mirik, Kalimpong and Darjeeling. Effigies of chief minister Mamata Banerjee were also burned in Darjeeling and Mirik.
CENTRE TO SEND ADDITIONAL FORCES
NEW DELHI: The home ministry received a factual report from West Bengal over the Darjeeling incidents and steps taken to contain violence. “We received a report from the state government over the weekend,” said a ministry spokesperson, adding two companies were sought but one has been provided. The ministry dispatched a Mahila company (around 100 personnel) of the central paramilitary forces for deployment in Darjeeling.